Seeking to expand a high school campus, the Salem-Keizer (Ore.) district has decided to use eminent domain, if necessary, to acquire about six acres of land owned by St. Edward Catholic Church in Keizer.
The Salem Statesman Journal reports that the Salem-Keizer School Board has approved a "resolution of necessity" that authorizes the district to use eminent domain to condemn the land and force a sale if church leaders do not accept the district's offer.
District officials say they need the land next to McNary High School because the existing setup puts students, pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and others in danger when entering or exiting the school's main parking lot.
The added acreage would be used, in part, to move the athletic fields and existing parking lots to make way for building expansions.
St. Edward church leaders argue they have not been offered a fair-market price and say they will fight the district's use of eminent domain. An appraisal in January estimated the value of the land at $1.39 million, but updated numbers have not been disclosed.
The district plans to send an official offer to St. Edward and begin the 40-day period in which church leaders can accept or reject the offer and view the district's appraisal.
The church has the right to appeal the exercise of eminent domain; however, experts say it is unlikely an appeal will be successful unless the church proves the school isn't taking the land for public use.